“What Mariel [Hemingway] wanted to do was to start digging below the surface of her own family history, and that’s the way I also like to make films,” said “Running From Crazy” Director Barbara Kopple when she spoke to Hamptons.com. “Documentaries are so entrusting because there is no script, you never know where it is going to take you or what is going to happen.” The film, which follows Mariel Hemingway as she examines the family’s history of mental illness and suicide, is screening as part of the upcoming 2013 Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF).
“I think that in a sense she was doing that for her daughters, Dree and Langley, because they never knew about the Hemingway history,” noted Kopple. While Mariel, the granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, was initially a little reluctant about committing to the documentary, once she found out Kopple was involved Mariel had no hesitations.
“There is no stone left unturned and it’s not depressing at all,” said Kopple about the film which broaches a sensitive subject to many. “It’s about transformation. It’s about hope. It’s about Mariel, her sister Margaux, and her sister Muffet.”
Growing up the granddaughters of Ernest Hemingway weren’t really aware of their grandfather’s accomplishments. They didn’t read any of his books and hardly ever talked about the literary legend. While the girls were aware that their grandfather was a famous writer, they really did not know much about his personal life.
Not only does the Oprah Winfrey Network film take viewers on Mariel’s eye opening journey, but it includes unseen archival footage of the Hemingway family. The filming process showed Kopple what a beautiful and raw person the documentary’s main subject is. “Watching her life unfold, seeing she has that same kind of challenge her grandfather had, but she doesn’t show it in drinking.” Kopple continued, “She’s really dealing with her demons, she goes rock climbing, she plunges herself into water that is 40 or 50 degrees, and goes hiking up mountains.” The youngest daughter of Byra Louise Hemingway and Jack Hemingway, enjoys the challenges of living life of the edge, but does so in a more holistic way.
It was an honor for the Academy Award Winning director to take a look into a family that Kopple says is “so extraordinary,” during filming. “If you look at the mythical characters in our culture like Ernest Hemingway, and I’ve done films on Mike Tyson, Woody Allen, Gregory Peck, it’s just interesting to go deep and underneath the skin. To really see what these families are about.”
The biggest challenge for the director was editing down the footage from the initial cut, which was 5 hours, down to its current of 1.5 hours. “You have to throw out your babies sometimes,” noted Kopple. “Less is more is the motto. Keep everyone wanting more, so that’s what we thought about.”
“One of the biggest things is I hope people will realize is that you have to be able to talk about mental illness,” said Kopple. “There used to be a taboo about breast cancer or AIDS or rape, and the taboo about mental illness and suicide has to be lifted.” She hopes “Running From Crazy” makes the viewer realize getting rid of the taboo can’t be done alone.
“Most of us have mental illness in our families or know somebody who has committed suicide or have had thoughts about committing suicide. There is somebody there that will have your back. There needs to be a lot more love for each other,” says Kopple. “If this film, in the end, can really bring the issues of mental illness into the light and really begin to start healing people and allow people to say okay we can talk about this, then I think it’s going to be a very effective film.”
“Running From Crazy” will screen on Thursday, October 10, at 4:30 p.m. at the Regal East Hampton Cinema UA 2, and on Friday, October 11, at 11:15 a.m. at the Regal East Hampton Cinema UA 5. Barbara Kopple will take part in HIFF’s Rowdy Talks at Rowdy Hall in East Hampton on Friday, October 11, at 10 a.m.
For more information visit hamptonsfilmfest.org.